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May 12, 2004

High Speed Development(s), and A Brilliant Large Format Photoblog

I am having a particularly brutal week, and "free time" has been spent printing for a hanging of prints at the ballet studio in time for their big spring show this weekend. I've spent the last two evenings printing 20+ B&W prints, and gone through nearly two boxes of paper. Small revelation in the course of doing all this: I definitely can develop B&W film, even high speed film (actually, *especially* high speed film) better than the local labs can. I gave a couple of Neopan 1600 rolls to a professional lab over a month ago when I was busy, as they had done a respectable job in the past...but printing from their rolls and from mine, the difference was striking...the lab's negatives were so overdeveloped, I spent a ton of time burning and dodging, whereas my negatives were generally lower maintenance.

Of course, this is what my basic darkroom teacher told us would happen once we got the basics of film development down, but I always thought he was a bit hard on commercial development...but my high volume printing exercise these last two days has shown me the light (no pun intended). In fairness, Neopan 1600 is one of the tougher films to nail down well...and if you give it to a less than competent lab, watch out..I've been there, the results are pretty ugly. Blown out highlights and severely blocked up shadows...it's like slide film that way. But when it's developed well, it's a beautiful film with the right subjects...fantastic highlights and grain. Definitely one of the main reasons for me to still use my 35mm cameras.


Ballet Image shot with Neopan 1600 rated at 800

Of course, all this time printing digital, 120 and 35mm images means I'm still not doing a lot of large format work just yet. I've actually entertained the idea of doing an 8x10 photoblog --which would make me go out there and shoot -- but as it turns out there's someone already doing an amazing job with their photoblog. Roark Johnson has used his Deardorff to photograph a stranger every day since the start of this year -- and I have to admit I'm in awe. This would be hard to do with a point and shoot, and he's done a fabulous job finding all sorts of interesting people to shoot in the Chicago area. Highly recommended among the sea of photoblogs out there, and definitely puts me to shame.

01:53 AM | Permalink


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I've recently discovered your weblog (via BotzBlog), and I was happy to read this entry about Neopan. I've only just begun developing my own film, and was wondering (hoping) if you would be willing to share information about how you develop the Neopan.

Thanks // bruno

Posted by: bruno at May 12, 2004 3:38:16 PM

Robert -- what a beautiful image you've posted! I might even be inspired to try a roll of Neopan instead of my trusty Delta 3200!!! And a fantastic composition as well. I love all the chopped off hands... it's great when you break-all-the-rules™ (i.e. "Never cut off hands at the wrist!") and end up with a simply amazing image. Nice work!!!

As for an 8x10 blog... how long before you end up with a Scoliosis blog? ;-)
physical-therapy.typepad.com anyone???

Posted by: Andrew Miller at May 13, 2004 8:52:30 AM

Bruno and Andrew, thanks for the comments. I'm not particularly adventurous about developing Neopan 1600 -- I rate it at 800 (sometimes 1000), and simply use D76 at 1:1 dilution for 8.5 to 9.5 minutes, depending on how contrasty the situation being photographed was. In general, Neopan works best in low contrast situations (like the ballet studio -- where it adds desirable contrast) and isn't so great for very low light, high contrast situations (like concerts or night street scenes) with a lot of shadows. Delta 3200 is almost the opposite of Neopan -- it tends to flatten high contrast situations, and it's more effective at ISO 1200 and above, generally keeping the midtones and shadows honest...but it's harder to make it sparkle.

Posted by: Robert at May 14, 2004 12:27:29 AM

Thanks for your answer, Robert. I'll go and experiment. Love you site and your work.

Posted by: bruno at May 14, 2004 3:54:04 AM